It was nearly a year ago when J.B. Bickerstaff went from associate head coach of the Memphis Grizzlies to interim head coach.
It was a challenging move. He took over for his friend David Fizdale, who was fired 19 games into his second season in Memphis — the first one included a playoff berth — after an eight-game losing streak.
Bickerstaff, a former University of Minnesota player and assistant coach with the Timberwolves, inherited an injury-riddled team that wound up 22-60. But, liking how he’d handled the team, the Grizzlies kept Bickerstaff, removing the interim tag shortly after the season ended.
“Basically you put your career on the line,’’ Bickerstaff said before Sunday’s game. “Because of the situation, not a lot of places are going to give you that chance, with all those losses. To reward me with this opportunity says a lot about them, how they appreciated the job we did, even under some tough circumstances.’’
Early returns? It appears the decision was a good one.
The Grizzlies entered Sunday’s game fifth in the West and are now 10-5. For Bickerstaff, his new position changes everything.
“You can put a plan in place,’’ he said. “And it’s not a ‘What the heck are we going to do today?’ plan. It’s a two- or three-year plan. You can live with making decisions on the big picture instead of having to make decisions on tonight’s game, tomorrow’s practice. You can stick to your guns a little bit.’’
Rotations, Part I
Looking to get his team going against Memphis, Wolves coach Tom Thibodeau went with a lineup that included backups Dario Saric, Derrick Rose and Tyus Jones for most of the fourth quarter while starters Taj Gibson and Jeff Teague stayed on the bench.
“We were searching,’’ Thibodeau said. “I’m just trying to look at who’s going decently, see if we could get something going.’’
That group did cut a 15-point lead to eight. But the Wolves couldn’t get any closer.
Gibson and Teague combined to go 2-for-14 for seven points and five turnovers. Teague finished 1-for-9 with two points and three turnovers going against Memphis guard Mike Conley.
Rotations, Part II
In light of the Wolves’ struggles Sunday, it was noted that both Josh Okogie and Anthony Tolliver failed to play. Thibodeau said he has not yet decided exactly how his rotation will look going forward.
“Nothing is set in stone,’’ he said. “I thought the group that we had is playing well. I don’t want to overreact or underreact. But you always think about those things. So just keep working, stay ready.’’
• Rose came off the bench to lead the Wolves with 18 points. It was his sixth straight game scoring in double figures, a stretch in which he has averaged 21.8 points, 4.8 assists and shot 49.5 percent overall, 57.4 percent on three-pointers.
• Sarcic’s 14 points Sunday included a 4-for-7 performance on three-pointers. It was his first game in double figures with the Wolves.